The hotspot is also known as “iconic site” or “suicide magnet”. It is “A specific, usually public, site which is frequently used as a location for suicide and which provides either means or opportunity for suicide”. It is almost always a jumping site; examples are the Golden Gate Bridge, the Eiffel Tower, and Niagara Falls” (National Institute for Mental Health In England, 2006). They also receive a disproportionate amount of media attention.
The “Guidance on action to be taken at suicide hotspots” (2006), developed by the National Institute for Mental Health in England, on the Suicide Prevention Resource Center Website, qualifies the suicide hotspot as follow:
“The term ‘suicide hotspot’ has two possible meanings. It is frequently used to refer to both: a) a geographical area with a relatively high rate of suicide among its resident population (e.g. a town, borough, county or country), and b) a specific, usually public, site which is frequently used as a location for suicide and which provides either means or opportunity for suicide (e.g. a particular bridge from which individuals frequently jump to their deaths)”.
The Guidance reports examples of prevention methods that may be applied to hotspots with proven efficacy: physical barriers, telephone hotlines also encouraged by placing telephones nearby the hotspot, increasing the possibility of intervention by a third party, suicide patrols or trained staff of non-health agencies working at or near hotspots, finally, paying attention to media reporting (e.g. media guideline).
In 2013 BMC Public Health published a systematic review about suicide hotspots that highlighted quite the same methods to prevent suicide in these areas as those indicated in the Guidance (1). In the same year a meta analysis about the effectiveness of structural interventions at suicide hotspots concluded that structural interventions at ‘hotspots’ avert suicides in these sites: “Some increases in suicide are evident at neighbouring sites, but there is an overall gain in terms of a reduction in all suicides by jumping” (2).
Developing suicide prevention strategies in these places requires complex questions of ownership, responsibility and resources.
On the Center for suicide prevention website there is an interesting editorial about the topic: “Jumping and Suicide Prevention”. It talks about suicide by jumping from heights and arguments for and against barriers.
It is known that barriers and other prevention methods may not stop an individual that wants to commit suicide, but multiple efforts should be performed to prevent the event, because, as reported in the editorial:
“A barrier or another prevention measure should not be up for debate. If suicides have occurred previously in the location… it is worth the expense.
Even one suicide is too many”.